What To Pack & Expect For Costa Rica
Cam here with VoyEdge RX. We've got our second ever Costa Rica tour kicking off in a couple weeks, and I've taken some information from our accommodations down in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica and applied it to a blog for you to peruse!
There is a ton of info here, so take it at will. Obviously, the packing stuff is super important (as are the rules etc.) but if you want more direct info on our day-to-day, please check the trip page down below, or skip right to the info below on what to pack & what to expect!
Pura Vida, baby! Let's get to it!
WHAT TO PACK
Keep it light and simple. You’ll spend most of your time in yoga or beach gear! But of course, you want to be prepared for the jungle as well. Here’s our recommended packing list. Keep in mind the weather here is hot and humid, and mold is not uncommon. Also, when it rains...it POURS! Items may take some time to dry so try to leave anything at home that is way precious to you. There is paid laundry service available at Cashew Hill which includes wash and dry. Please plan to use natural products for bath and body as Cashew Hill strives to be as green as possible and have a low environmental impact.
Smaller daypack or bag for hikes, beach walks, etc.
Sarong or beach towel
Comfortable lightweight yoga clothing
Yoga Mat cover/towel
Long loose pants or skirts for evenings (when the mosquitoes come out)
Something for nice dinner out attire
Thin sweater, jacket or sweatshirt if it gets chilly
Rain jacket (you can purchase umbrellas in town)
Lightweight hiking shoes or sneakers (that you don’t mind getting muddy)
Flip flops and/or sandals
Natural insect repellent or oils
Flashlight or headlamp
Chargers & more (the outlets are the same as the US, but a universal adapter never hurts)
Any other toiletries you need (try to get natural and organic options if possible for minimal environmental impact).
WHAT TO EXPECT
Adapted from This American Girl
Only routine vaccinations are recommended by the CDC for entry into Costa Rica. If you’re coming from a zone where Yellow Fever is a risk you may need that additional vaccine. Please look into the individual recommendations for your country of departure entering into Costa Rica. You do not need Malaria medication.
Getting Through Customs
Fly into San Jose Costa Rica (airport code SJO). You will need to go through Immigration so have your passport ready, your landing card (which they will give you to fill out on the airplane), and confirmation of a ticket out of Costa Rica within 90 days. This confirmation for your exit ticket is mandatory, and they won’t let you into the country without it.
There is money exchange available in the airport although it is not recommended to change a lot there as you will receive a poor exchange rate. There are also ATMs on site. If you can withdraw colones it is better. There are also several ATMs in Puerto Viejo and two banks. Most businesses take cash online with the exception of larger ones. There is very often an additional charge for card use within Costa Rica. Costa Rica has a 13% sales tax; expect it to be added to everything. CASH IS INDEED KING.
Transportation Options (VoyEdge RX has this covered upon your arrival with our groups)
Grab an official taxi outside of the airport to be dropped off at the Terminal de Autobus Atlantico Norte located on Calle 12 between Avenidas 7 and 9 in Barrio Mexico, San Jose. That is where the Mepe buses that go to Puerto Viejo leave from. The last bus leaves at 4p.m. The bus ticket is around $12 USD, the taxi into San Jose Center will be around $30 USD.
VoyEdge RX Groups
You will meet at Denny's outside of the SJO airport (across the highway), and you may take a cab or hoof it to meet our group bus, which leaves at 2pm from the Denny's parking lot. Yes, your first interaction in Costa Rica will be at an American breakfast place. We'll joke about this later.
More Shuttle Info
You may choose to reserve your seat on a shuttle that will pick you up at Denny’s outside the airport (grab an official taxi to get dropped off at Denny’s). Caribe Shuttle leaves from there in 15 passenger shuttles with air conditioning and WiFi at 6:00a.m. and 2:00p.m. Your spot must be reserved. We are happy to help you with that if you wish for us to reserve it for you. Caribe Shuttle will drop you off right at Cashew Hill. The shuttle will be around $50 USD.
RENTAL CAR: There are Adobe and Alamo rental car offices in Puerto Viejo. You might rent in San Jose and drop-off in Puerto Viejo. Rental car prices vary depending on the length of rental.
Shared Private Taxi
If several in the group have similar flight arrivals we are happy to organize a shared private taxi. They will pick you up at the airport and drop you off at Cashew Hill. Shared Taxi can be from $80 to $25 USD per person depending on the size of the group that shares it.
FLIGHT: Sansa Air has flights from San Jose to Limon. From there you would need to take private taxi or public bus the extra hour to Puerto Viejo. These hopper flights are from $80 to $130 USD depending on the dates of your travel.
Cashew Hill Jungle Lodge is located on a beautiful jungle hill overlooking the ocean and the town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. It is a quick few blocks to town center walking. The 14 kilometers of coastline are all easily accessible by foot, bicycle or taxi.
ACCOMMODATIONS & WILDLIFE
Welcome To The Jungle, Literally
You’re about to arrive into the arms of the rainforest; the jungle. It truly is wild, yes there are creatures and yes it does rain in the rainforest. Even the most luxurious restaurants and resorts cannot cut off the influence of the natural world here. You will likely be excited to see sloths, monkeys, geckos and butterflies (fuck yeah!) and also please keep in mind that creatures like snakes, spiders, cockroaches and scorpions are part of jungle life, too. Living in peace with nature is a huge part of many travelers decision to come to this country. Yoga is a practice of coming into nature’s rhythms. Try to remember that in the moments you might feel uncomfortable, that nature is a natural part of this country and indeed runs its course.
All houses are equipped with hot water showers and open seating areas. Bear in mind that traditional Caribbean houses are quite simple and the hot water system here is different than in developed countries. Most of the seating is wooden. We ask all visitors to conserve sacred resources, including water. We are fortunate at Cashew Hill to be on wells and not public water. Due to this, we are not on water rations when the rest of the community is. However, in dry seasons there can be very brief outages. Help the cause by keeping water usage to a considerate level.
In all of Costa Rica, the toilet paper goes in the trash bin. Septic systems here cannot handle the debris. All restrooms in the area will have bins beside the toilets for the waste paper. This always takes some time for visitors to get used to! Your house will have regular maid service and bins will be emptied as needed.
There is no smoking on-site at Cashew Hill. This is part of our commitment to health, internal and environmental cleanliness.
It is customary in Costa Rica to tip for services. This includes massage and bodywork, out at restaurants, for your housekeeping staff at Cashew Hill, for any tours you may choose to take etc. It is not necessary to tip for local taxi transportation. Plan to budget at least $3-5 per day for your housekeeping. For other services 10% is customary, tip more if you feel you’ve received exceptional treatment!
Phone & Internet
There is WiFi on-site in the housing and at the reception. We request limited or no usage of WiFi or personal devices in the yoga shala itself. We encourage you to use some of your time in the jungle as an opportunity for digital detox: a time to connect more deeply with those that are physically present and with the natural world around you. WiFi is relatively easy to find in all of the Caribbean. Keep in mind, as with most things, the internet is not as advanced as in more developed countries. If you are doing a lot of downloading, uploading or using sites with large files you might expect there to be delays. It is relatively consistent at Cashew Hill, but the internet provider does cut out from time to time for short periods.
Phones & Service
It is quick and easy to get a Costa Rican phone chip for your unlocked phones. If you have a specific provider and plan you would need to unlock the phone beforehand. You can buy a chip in town for under $15 USD and then you have a Costa Rican phone number and service. Phones like this are pre-pay and you can put anywhere from $4 to $20 USD at a time on them as credit. Otherwise, for calls and communication with one another and around the globe, we recommend getting an app like Skype or WhatsApp where you can call directly to your friends and family.
Our food is prepared with love and intention by the on-site chefs at Cashew Hill. You will receive well balanced vegetarian meals with vegan and gluten-free options (when requested prior to arrival). As much as possible is sourced from our on-site farm-to-table project. When not possible we do our best to source ingredients locally and organically.
There are several supermarkets within walking distance of your housing, if you would like to purchase more meat items or things we do note have at Cashew Hill.
You must let us know prior to your arrival if you will require vegan or gluten-free options for your food plan. We can not accommodate changes in meal plans from day-to-day.
Getting outside of your comfort zone will be a daily norm in the jungle! If you wish to book additional activities during free time just ask at reception. The area offers a wide selection from zip-lining or horse riding to surf classes and night hikes. Spanish lessons and Spa services are also available here on site.
What if it Rains?
It probably will. And it will also probably be sunny and scorching hot. The weather in the Caribbean is known for being unpredictable and for changing quickly. Don’t bother looking at weather reports; the closest station is 2 hours away and often has quite different weather than what Puerto Viejo is experiencing. Prepare to practice a have fun, positive attitude no matter what the weather!
Everything you need is within walking distance. If you choose to wander further down the road during free time, there are bicycles available for rental right at Cashew Hill or in the center of town. Reception is also happy to call you a taxi when needed or you can catch the public local bus with ease. There is only one main road stretching from town all the way to Manzanillo (the literal end of the road!). It’s easy to navigate the area. Be very careful on the roads as drivers have the right-of-way in Costa Rica...and sometimes don’t mind reminding pedestrians and bicyclists of it! ALWAYS lock your bicycle to a sturdy post or tree. Petty theft is the principal issue here: and bicycles are a favorite item!
After dark, plan to take a taxi and don’t carry any valuable items. Do not walk the beach or main road beyond town center after dark. Most restaurants would be happy to call you a taxi when needed.
Life in the jungle is unpredictable. The weather changes at the drop of a hat. Cleaning ants may decide to sweep through your living room floor or a cockroach decides to land on your fruit. Costa Rica is not known for being particularly efficient in any processes. Lines move slow. People might operate on “beach time” and be late or unreliable. Your favorite products from home may not be available here. This place is certainly a paradise, but like all places in existence, it is far from perfect, and it is still developing. Allow this to be a gateway for developing greater patience and compassion. And when all else fails, do as the locals and just say “Pura Vida”!
Living and learning together for so many hours daily requires each person to make compromises and practice patience. Let’s work actively and collectively to be compassionate and understanding of one another regardless of gender, race, creed, orientation and, history. It is important that we all feel safe in order to have the most optimal learning environment possible. Below you will find a list of standard group housing agreements. More may be added during your own retreat’s orientation or as those in the group come together to share their voices.
We agree to have quiet time for rest or solitude after 10:30 p.m. each night. This is also a gesture of respect toward my housemates who may want to sleep!
We agree to clean up after ourselves in the yoga shala and in the shared housing spaces. This is particularly important in the jungle as cleanliness will also help cut back on unwanted jungle visitors. We agree to keep our own belongings in our own designated spaces so that others may also have their own sacred space.
We agree to only touch or use our own belongings unless clear permission and approval is given otherwise.
We agree not to bring outside guests into our shared housing and safe space environment. Anyone not enrolled in the retreat may not spend the night. Visitors are allowed in shared, common spaces but not in the shared bedrooms. Respect the needs of room and housemates for rest, quiet time and study.
There will be no drugs or alcohol allowed on the retreat center site or in the housing. There is no smoking permitted anywhere on premise.
We agree to take responsibility for ourselves including our health, happiness, diet, energy level and safety. We each understand and acknowledge the risks involved in participating in physically intensive practices and experiences.
We agree to help co-create an experience free of blame, judgement, and discrimination.
We agree to be honest with and considerate of each other.
Remember that paradise we already talked about, the one that’s not quite perfect? That’s Costa Rica as a whole (and every paradise for that matter!)! Like anywhere else in the world you will need to travel, move and live with intelligence. It’s easy to get swept up in the tropical paradise wave or experience “vacation brain”. Use the same safety measures you would elsewhere and there will be no issues. Stay aware, use your intuition and follow these helpful suggestions:
Please do not walk outside of town center after dark or ride your bicycle alone after dark. Never carry anything of great value or be flashy with phones or cameras.
Only take what you absolutely must to the beach with you. A photocopy of your passport is great to have. Don’t bring credit cards, large amounts of cash, pricey jewelry etc. Never leave belongings unattended on the beach.
Respect the ocean. The only beach with lifeguards is Cocles (Beach Break). Mind the flags as indicators of rip tides. If you’re on an unfamiliar beach, ASK! The ocean is strong, fast and unforgiving if you are not respectful of it. Swim and surf at your own risk in unfamiliar zones.
There are small safes available in the rooms on site at Cashew Hill. Use them for anything you will not need for the duration of your trip.
Keep your eyes open and look before you step or grab. There are all kinds of hidden dangers that are part of jungle life. From falling coconuts (a real safety danger!) to poisonous caterpillars and biting ants, keep your eyes open! In particular, before you put on close-toed shoes, grab a branch or sit down on the beach take a quick scan for anything that looks like it could be poisonous, bite or sting. Stick to well-defined paths.
Acknowledge the risks involved in close contact with nature and in travelling in a new country. If you respect nature, it will respect you back!
When bicycling or walking on the road keep in mind the roads are narrow and cars go FAST! Costa Rica gives the right of way to the vehicle and not the pedestrian. Keep your eyes open and move as far to the right as possible to leave plenty of space for the drivers to get through.
Some of you may ride a bicycle regularly, others may not have for years! Be sure you are very comfortable on how a beach cruiser works (pedal brakes, only one speed) before you take off. We’re happy to help you get sorted! It is very difficult to find mountain bikes for rent here.
Costa Rica Country Code: +11 506
Cashew Hill Jungle Lodge Main Line: 2750 0001
Taxi Central: 2750 2073 or 2750 0439
Mepe (Puerto Viejo) public bus: 2750 0023
Mepe (San Jose) public bus: 2257 8129
Cashew Hill Jungle Lodge Main Line: 506 2750 0001
Police &/or Emergency: 911
Cahuita Police: 506 2755 0217
Tourist Police: 506 2750 0452 or 506 2798 0217
Poison Control: 800 222 1222
Animal Rescue Center: 506 2750 0710
Local Private Clinic: 506 2750 0079
Hone Creek Public Clinic: 506 2756 8022 or 506 2756 8024
Limon Hospital: 506 2758 2222
We promise to offer compassion and kindness.
We promise to inform you in the most comprehensive way possible about our services and the area.
We promise that we are human;
We promise we are trying our best!
For any questions, email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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